What roller skating taught me about nostalgia – habit change Day 7

I went roller skating for the first time in 40 years yesterday at Rollerland in the Flemish town of Aalst…I had good memories from my roller skating days in Australia of a magical place where the lights were low and the place was dazzling with disco lighting and pop music playing loudly. It was always such a treat to be taken roller skating and I can remember the car rides there in my parent’s blue VW combivan. Once on the rink, I would dream of being good at it, like the one or two people who would glide seamlessly around me even being able to go backwards, but really I was happy if I made it out of the place without falling over.

That’s where it all happened

So, what took me to Rollerland? My son was invited to a party there and in order to encourage him to go, as the only boy invited to a girl’s party, I said I’d go with him. I was excited by the thought of revisiting this youthful occupation thinking it would be !!!FUN!!!

I drove the 45 minutes on the crazy Belgian freeway. It was in a battered building on the outskirts of town – a typical post-industrial Belgian landscape that always makes my heart sink.

But inside was just as I remembered – a young guy at the desk where you pay – swapping your shoes for the rollerskates. They offered inline skates but also the traditional four-wheeled ones of my youth. I took those.

The Roller Skates

The rink and the lights and the music were all still the same. I gingerly hit the rink, one of the only parents to do so. After a few practice rounds I got a bit of confidence up and there was one part of it that I could get up a bit of speed and feel that I was getting it.

But the truth was I wasn’t having any !!!FUN!!! My feet hurt, the roller skates were clunky and inelegant and I was alone because the kids were all busy playing amongst themselves. Besides the loneliness, I felt stupid and inept. Before I could bail though, another mother joined me, so my loneliness was abated, but my feet still hurt and I was getting tired of pretending to enjoy myself. I said I was going to stop but she encouraged me to keep going and then ‘it’ happened.

Like I said, there is always one or two people who can skate really well at these establishments. And the person at this particular rink was a middle aged man with a white haired ponytail, a baseball cap, headphones like the ones you used to use with a walkman. He wore a black hoody and black jeans and cruised around the rink dancing and jigging like a professional (if that exists…). It was in looking at this phenomena and being jealous of it and trying to imagine what this person’s life must be like outside of Rollerland, that I lost my concentration and had that terrible sudden feeling of losing control, and of course instead of sitting into my knees to regain it, I wobbled backward and flew straight onto my 50-something derrière and it hurt! I wasn’t game to try and get into the standing position with wheels on my feet, so I crawled to the wall and hawled myself up on the barrier. Nobody was watching or could care but I was mortified and wounded. I found the quickest exit, sat down and removed my skates to discover my thumb swelling, but luckily not much else.

I have decided I will never roller skate again. And I hate to say it, but it’s because I’m too old for it now – and I don’t mean this in a clichéd way. I learned that it’s good to keep the good memories of these youthful moments, let them remain nostalgia, rather than trying to relive them when you’ve moved on. It’s a bit sad, but it’s the reality of the physical world: roller skating, unless you’re really good at it, is a young person’s game.

I hope your weekend was good! That’s mine all wrapped up and now it’s time to sleep with my battered pride. ZZZZZ Catie

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